FYI: Shemitta "economics"

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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Yossie Horwitz » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:13 pm

Craig - I am a little surprised by your comments since, other than folks who are anti-Israel for one reason or another, you are actually the first person I have ever met who states as a matter of fact that they don't purchase Israeli wine...

Besides having an oenophilic interest in a major kosher wine producing region, that regularly produces copious amounts of high-quality wine, many people take it as a point of pride to support the state/land of Israel by purchasing Israeli wine. Unless you purchase no wine at all and only drink your own or wine that is gifted to you, why would you shy away from Israeli wine?
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Isaac Chavel » Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:40 pm

I guess I started this mess ....
Simply put, the Charedi public and leadership: rabbinical and political, are overwhelmingly concerned with the problems facing the consumer. The reason for that is that the Charedi public by and large does not participate in the agricultural production process, be it wine or be it tomatoes, but they consume agricultural products in large quantities. Hence, for the Charedim the preferred solution, and one that fully addresses the problems facing the consumer, even if it exacerbates the problems faced by the producer, is appealing. Namely, their solution is to flood the country with imported produce. This solution delivers produce that is free of any halachic issues, and can potentially be delivered at low cost. ...

This seems to me the clearest statement, so far, of this part of the issue. So I understand the produce side of the issue. What I do not understand is the wine side of the issue.
I don't think that the proportion of high-end wines consumed by the Charedi public is that large relative to the overall production to pose a huge problem.

Is this indeed correct? I imagine so, but do not live in Israel and have no real idea.

I have another question: My recollection (I admit I am at the age where my 30-years-ago-memory is far better than yesterday-memory) is that the big push for OBD in 2008 came from the rabbis in the rabbanut who were uncomfortable with HM and wanted to go over to the OBD method. Then there was that messy court case, etc. Now these rabbis do not "serve" the charedi community, and, nonetheless, they wanted to "upgrade" --- at least in their eyes. I do not recall that pressure was coming from the producers. The rabbanut rabbis serve the community at large, whether observant or otherwise. My guess is that if the rabbis wanted to move to the OBD method, then they wanted to get it right. And I presume their expertise and piety in the matter. And I have no sense yet that the complaints are really grounded in fact. The closest is Mike's report from his brother-in-law and Elie's remark on the retail prices. Elie's remark, if true, indicates there is a problem somewhere in the chain. Did Mike's brother-in-law refer to the rabbanut rabbis, other "free-lancers, or to the marketing and retail level?
So stick with the facts - the bottle! In every year since good wine exits - the mainstream bottles produced by any winery in a shmitta year - lack the OU/OK/Baadtaz. Period.

I am not certain as to the implications of the statement, despite accepting the fact.
one may find wines from Recanti or Tzora of the 08 vintage also in the US

I buy in Skyview and met the saleswoman from Recanati who said, that after 2001, they are no longer importing shmitta wines because of all the mess involved. And indeed I do not recall Recanati shmitta wines locally. Furthermore, a friend from Israel brought an 08 Recanati CS Reserve and it was OBD. Tzora, on the other hand, remained HM. (Just a small correction to your remark.)
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Gabriel Geller » Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:06 pm

Isaac Chavel wrote:
So stick with the facts - the bottle! In every year since good wine exits - the mainstream bottles produced by any winery in a shmitta year - lack the OU/OK/Baadtaz. Period.

I am not certain as to the implications of the statement, despite accepting the fact.

1) Badatz never gets involved with shmittah produce. Period. All Badatz-only consumers thereby stay away.

2) OU/OK are used for export purposes almost exclusively. Since OBD wine/fruit (except again for GHW and apparently GMW as well) cannot be exported thus no american kashrut stamp on the wine. A fact well pointed-out at by Dave when he opened a bottle of Barkan Assemblage Tzafit 2009 that has 5% of 2008 wine blended in afew months ago.

Best,

GG
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby David Raccah » Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:11 pm

Indeed, let us continue this fun. I did a check, and yes Tzora wines are available here along with a few Recanati wines, but there really are few 2008 wines here. Tishbi trued it a few years ago with Kosherwine.com and it was a total failure, almost nothing sold, from what I could see.

Tzora sells here because it is sold to non-jewish customers, so it works. I guess it is like Yossie and Gabe said, they sell the shmitta wines to the non-jewish segemnts and to other countries where the concern is not as high. Also, what I meant Isaac was that in the end, until a real hecsher in on a bottle of shmitta wine, mainstream America and black hat in Israel will not touch it - that was my only point.

Agreed Gabe - as usuasl
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Mike BG » Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:22 am

Isaac Chavel wrote:The closest is Mike's report from his brother-in-law and Elie's remark on the retail prices. Elie's remark, if true, indicates there is a problem somewhere in the chain. Did Mike's brother-in-law refer to the rabbanut rabbis, other "free-lancers, or to the marketing and retail level?

OK. Here is a historical introduction. I hope it is not too long!

In the beginning (pre-State, and up to the mid 1990s) there were a small number of farmers who kept shmitta without any recourse to the hetter mechira. They were, broadly speaking, PAI affiliated settlements. They were encouraged by the Hazon Ish, who was prepared to use a number of halachic leniencies in order to make it possible for them to keep shmitta without recorse to the hetter mechira. Paradoxically (at least to an outsider) Rav Kook was extremely stringent in his approach to shmitta, so much so that many have argued that it is totally impossible to keep shmitta according to Rav Kook's approach unless the hetter mechira is applied. Regardless of this point, Rav Kook himself regarded the hetter mechira as a 'last resort' in extremely difficult times, when farmers barely had enough food and clothing (his own description)) and did not rely on it himself (he attests to this in some of his responsa literature).

Those farmers who kept shmitta set up an otsar beit din. In Bnei Berak most greengrocers took their produce from this otsar beit din, with clear notices warning the public to take care with the shmitta produce. In other places the produce was distributed in small 'distribution centres' which were not usually open as stores. The produce was distributed on a cost basis, with the farmers being paid for their work as labourers and for their use of any equipment etc. It was usually significantly cheaper than the regular, hetter mechira produce. Nobody at this stage was producing significant quantities of wine or grape juice due to logistical problems.

Prior to the shmitta of 1994 a number of grape growers joined together under the guidance of Rav Yanovsky (who was at the time the Rav of Carmel Wines) and Rav Karelitz (of Bnei Berak) to form what was probably the largest otsar beit din since the destruction of the Temple, if not the largest ever. This otsar beit din was run according to very strict guidelines, with all work done on the vines requiring explicit approval beforehand. A large quantity of grape juice was produced, and also a quantity of (rather poor quality) sweet 'kiddush wine' (I think it was Carmel Concord and Carmel Chateau Richon). The reason for the poor quality is that a good proportion of it was intended for grape juice but it began to ferment so it had to be 'turned into wine'! This otsar beit din operated in 2001 and 2008 as well (with better results on the wine front, although the attempts at producing table wines were a major disaster). The grape juice and wine has always been very significantly cheaper than the 'regular' version. This otsar beit din has never been 'profitable' in any meaningful way but has enabled the grape growers to sell their produce, which is on the trees anyway ...

In 1994 Rav Weitman, who later became the Rav of the Tenuva agricultural cooperative (now no longer a cooperative) was the Rav of Kibbutz Kefar Etzion. He encouraged the farmers there to keep shmitta in their fruit orchards without recourse to the hetter mechira. Once again the otsar beit din method was used. Rav Weitman published a series of articles about this shmitta experience which he later published as a book. Gush Etzion were the largest producers of cherries, peaches and nectarines in the souther part of the country, and this was not mean feat from a logistical point of view. Rav Weitman was guided by the leading rabbinical luminaries of the time and his correspondences with them are collected in his book.

By the shmitta of 2001 Rav Weitman was the Rav of Tenuva and he set up a massive otsar beit din under their auspices. It made massive losses, but Tenuva were prepared to accept them as a market leader.

It must be stressed that all of the above have been pretty much 'regular', and what is more to the point 'regulated' otsar beit dins. Most of the chareidi public were happy with the wine and grape juice from Carmel (at least the specially distributed otsar beit din I described above). Use of the Kefar Etzion fruit was more limited, but it was distributed in Bnei Berak (but less so in Jerusalem). The later, Tenuva otsar beit din (in its 2001 incarnation) was popular in what could be termed 'national religious' circles, but broadly ignored by most chareidim. However, Rav Weitman was regarded very highly for his pioneering work in spreading shmitta observance to more and more farmers.

However, in 2008 things changed. More 'national religious' Rabbis preferred to move away from the hetter mechira and to the otsar beit din approach. A campaign was launched, with them signing up farmers on 'otsar beit din' 'contracts' rather then on hetter mechira documents (yes, it really was a type of campaign). To the farmer it would make no difference anyway - just a different form of halachic legal document which really didn't commit him to anything at all. This became the basis for the otsar beit din of Tenuva and the general otsar beit din of Carmel wines (not the 'special' one described earlier which continued as before) for the shmitta of 2008. But, note the differences: no real restrictions of what the farmers may do in their fields, no restrictions of distribution (and specifically pricing) and (I can vouch for this) at least not all shopkeepers even made agents of the beit din.

So what happened? Plenty of people (like ourselves, for instance) who had previously welcomed the Tenuva otsar beit din (in 2001) no longer relied on it in 2008. Not only that, but within the chareidi world, the term 'otsar beit din' began to be regarded in the same vein as 'hetter mechira'. In fact, halachically speaking, it may be preferable in many instances to keep using the hetter mechira than this (highly distorted) version of otsar beit din.

As I wrote before:
"It is very upsetting when you have relatives who live off farming, support a large family, do not work in shmitta, and have a difficult time managing to work with a properly run otsar beit din, and others come along, essentially permit everything to be done 'business as usual' and then also call it 'otsar beit din'. The more that otsar beit din gets used as a sort of 'alternative hetter mechira' the less people who used to rely on it will do so. Yes, I do know this trend is true, based on what my brother in law (the said farmer) has told me."

Who is my brother in law referring to? To well-meaning (but in my opinion, misguided) 'national religious' Rabbis who have to all intents and purposes just renamed hetter mechira as otsar beit din. It sounds great, but in practice it has meant that the term has become meaningless to the vast bulk of the chareidi public who are not as familiar with the whole setup as I am. The moment they see the term 'otsar beit din' they just walk away. To them it is just another cop out. They do not have enough background knowledge to differentiate between the otsar beit din for farmers who are genuinely keeping shmitta and for whom it is a truly brave step to take; and what I would call a 'pseudo otsar beit din' which is pretty much business as usual.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Isaac Chavel » Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:37 am

To well-meaning (but in my opinion, misguided) 'national religious' Rabbis who have to all intents and purposes just renamed hetter mechira as otsar beit din.


Living in the States, I do not know what is actually going on in Israel --- especially with regard to agriculture --- so I found the discussion informative (even if it took awhile to get from heat to light). So much so --- if what I've read here is indeed the case --- that having drunk HM wines through the years, I might have to consider drinking only HM wines, besides Yarden, etc. Tzora, for one, here I come.

Nevertheless, I find it extremely difficult to accept tarring "national religious" rabbis with such a broad brush. "Well-meaning but misguided" is at best a nice way of saying "incompetent" --- a gracious substitute for "malicious intent." I have met more than a few "national religious" rabbis over the years, and they are both well-meaning and expert --- certainly not so ignorant and incompetent as to think a substitute of contract with no practical consequences suffices. Yes, it is easy to tell me that I was fortunate enough to meet the "good" ones, and not the usual out in the field (no pun intended). But I certainly am not ready to go there. You want to tell me there are some not-so-good ones out there? No news there, nor anywhere else for that matter.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Adam M » Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:58 pm

Pinchas L wrote:This topic really doesn't belong here, but what the heck, now that it is here, so I'll let off some steam.

Anyone who translates the theoretical concept of Otzar Beit Din into reality is childish. There exists a whole economy of Charedim who live from shmitta to shmitta off of the proceeds, spending the six years in between stirring trouble wherever they can, having plenty of free time on their hands. The real difference between Otzar Beit Din and Heter Mechira lies in the party making the profit: with heter mechira it is the hard working farmer and winemaker, with the Otzar Beit Din it is the operatives of the certifying agencies.

The Charedim give Heter Mechira a bad name, but they have never shied away from Heter Iska, a similar arrangement that allows them to charge interest on loans made to others, that would otherwise be prohibited. I guess the difference is that Charedim have a tradition for being loan sharks, but not for working the land.

-> Pinchas


Don't really understand a word, but +1 I'm with Pinchas on this one
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Barry K » Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:54 am

I am a bit taken about by the innuendos discussed here implying that economics are driving the heter mechira ,otzar beth din camps.. In a few short words the major halachic difference between heter iska and Otzar Beth Din vs Heter Mechira is that Heter Iska and Otzar beth din are the creation of the beth din of Hillel in mishnaic period.. Heter Mechira is the brilliant solution of Harav Kook who proposed it as a "shaas Hadchag " ( time of extreme danger ) solution for a struggling developing movement at risk of failure. Otzar beth din is in mishna with no dissenting opinion ( no Shamai did not object) . Heter mechira has been controversial from day One with the Chazon Ish dissenting vigorously.. Even if one accepts Rav Kooks decision the question remains would even he still feel the situation warrants the leniency .

Otzar beth Din is significantly more complicated to admister (ie the legitimacy of the beth din being the major issue as I understand it). The point here is that there are legitimate Legal opinions to consider .. I would be reluctant to simply attribute the debate to economic issues .

Best wishes to all
Barry
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Elie Poltorak » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:39 am

Barry K wrote:I am a bit taken about by the innuendos discussed here implying that economics are driving the heter mechira ,otzar beth din camps.. In a few short words the major halachic difference between heter iska and Otzar Beth Din vs Heter Mechira is that Heter Iska and Otzar beth din are the creation of the beth din of Hillel in mishnaic period.. Heter Mechira is the brilliant solution of Harav Kook who proposed it as a "shaas Hadchag " ( time of extreme danger ) solution for a struggling developing movement at risk of failure. Otzar beth din is in mishna with no dissenting opinion ( no Shamai did not object) . Heter mechira has been controversial from day One with the Chazon Ish dissenting vigorously.. Even if one accepts Rav Kooks decision the question remains would even he still feel the situation warrants the leniency .

Otzar beth Din is significantly more complicated to admister (ie the legitimacy of the beth din being the major issue as I understand it). The point here is that there are legitimate Legal opinions to consider .. I would be reluctant to simply attribute the debate to economic issues .

Best wishes to all
Barry


Unfortunately, there's a lot of misplaced cynicism in this discussion. HM was certainly driven by noble considerations, as is the current drive to a more relaxed form of Otzar Beis Din. The question is, how does that affect those who wish to be stringent and not rely on heterim (i.e., the so-called "Charedi" public).

Gabriel Geller
: Why don't you weigh in here? As a retailer of Otzar Beis Din wine, I'm sure you have a better understanding of the distribution of OBD wine than any of us. Have you been appointed a "shliach beis din" by the various OBDs? Does that affect your profit margin on the wine? Are prices on OBD wines lower than other vintages?
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Gabriel Geller » Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:43 am

Elie Poltorak wrote:
Barry K wrote:I am a bit taken about by the innuendos discussed here implying that economics are driving the heter mechira ,otzar beth din camps.. In a few short words the major halachic difference between heter iska and Otzar Beth Din vs Heter Mechira is that Heter Iska and Otzar beth din are the creation of the beth din of Hillel in mishnaic period.. Heter Mechira is the brilliant solution of Harav Kook who proposed it as a "shaas Hadchag " ( time of extreme danger ) solution for a struggling developing movement at risk of failure. Otzar beth din is in mishna with no dissenting opinion ( no Shamai did not object) . Heter mechira has been controversial from day One with the Chazon Ish dissenting vigorously.. Even if one accepts Rav Kooks decision the question remains would even he still feel the situation warrants the leniency .

Otzar beth Din is significantly more complicated to admister (ie the legitimacy of the beth din being the major issue as I understand it). The point here is that there are legitimate Legal opinions to consider .. I would be reluctant to simply attribute the debate to economic issues .

Best wishes to all
Barry


Unfortunately, there's a lot of misplaced cynicism in this discussion. HM was certainly driven by noble considerations, as is the current drive to a more relaxed form of Otzar Beis Din. The question is, how does that affect those who wish to be stringent and not rely on heterim (i.e., the so-called "Charedi" public).

Gabriel Geller
: Why don't you weigh in here? As a retailer of Otzar Beis Din wine, I'm sure you have a better understanding of the distribution of OBD wine than any of us. Have you been appointed a "shliach beis din" by the various OBDs? Does that affect your profit margin on the wine? Are prices on OBD wines lower than other vintages?


Since you insist, and despite I'm not very fond of halachik discussions on this forum, I will eventually try and post a bit later my own thoughts.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Isaac Chavel » Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:05 am

Gabriel Geller: Why don't you weigh in here? As a retailer of Otzar Beis Din wine, I'm sure you have a better understanding of the distribution of OBD wine than any of us. Have you been appointed a "shliach beis din" by the various OBDs? Does that affect your profit margin on the wine? Are prices on OBD wines lower than other vintages?


I am uncomfortable with putting anybody in the biz on the spot. The discussion was sufficiently complete for background on the issues. Maybe it is best to contact people in the wine business privately, when asking specifics.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Yakov F » Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:22 am

I consulted a friend who works for R. Weitman after seeing many questionable statements casting shadows on what to my understanding was an extremely responsible Otzar Bet Din courageously dealing with the issues of a modern society and encountering the issues with eyes wide open - but deciding to encounter the issues rather than ignore them.

Regarding the information about R. Weitman's practices overseeing the OBD quoted here by those who consider their own practice more stringent - THE INFORMATION THEY QUOTED IS NOT CORRECT.

I wish those who try to behave more "stringently" in rabbinic matters would be at least as equally careful in Biblical matters and use caution before they make incorrect statement that reflect poorly on others. Ignorance is not an excuse.

Furthermore, the alternative "stricter" practices regarding Shmitta leads to other severe consequences that those who posted so eloquently chose to ignore.

And after talking with R. Weitman's office it became clear that this thread confused the OBD for wine and the general OBD for produce - also overseen with great halachic integrity. The issues are different. it is also important to note that general OBD was not run by R. Weitman.

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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Gabriel Geller » Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:43 am

I will just point out some important OBD-Shmitta fact that is on some Shmitta bottles, especially on GHW's, and from here I will let you translate it, interpret it, comment and argue about it as much as you want... :lol:

It says הביעור נעשה בזמנו ע"י אוצר בית דין
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Elie Poltorak » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:58 am

Isaac makes a good point. Gabriel, I apologize for putting you on the spot. If you don't feel comfortable weighing in here, I completely understand. I will grill you though in person when I come visit :wink: In any event, I wasn't asking for halachic discussion, which I understand you don't want to get in to, but rather if you could contribute to the factual background regarding the OBD distribution, as the facts seem to be hotly contested. But as I said, feel free to post as little or as much as you like.

As for the photo you posted, if the biur wasn't done by beis din, the wine would become forbidden and have to be destroyed as soon as Pesach of the following year (5769/2009) passed. But even after biur it retains some of the laws of kedushas shvi'is, but that's a very complex subject which I don't understand well enough to expound upon so I'll shut up. What is relevant here is young wines that are released prior to pesach of the following year (whites, roses, etc.) (released in Israel only, as it is forbidden to export them prior to zman biur). Any such wines purchased by consumers must be made hefker (ownerless) on erev pesach, but what to do with stock on store shelves? That problem is also avoided by the system of appointing store owners as shlichei beis din. Anyhow, while I agree that this isn't the proper forum to debate halacha, I think we should continue to discuss and welcome any contribution toward understanding the factual background--i.e., what the various wineries/hashgachot are doing with respect to shmitta wine. It's a fascinating subject and very relevant to any kosher wine lover. In fact, I'm still hoping to marshal necessary facts to convince my rov to give me a heter to purchase OBD wine in the US! :lol:
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby EY Han » Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:53 pm

Gabriel Geller wrote:
Isaac Chavel wrote:
So stick with the facts - the bottle! In every year since good wine exits - the mainstream bottles produced by any winery in a shmitta year - lack the OU/OK/Baadtaz. Period.

I am not certain as to the implications of the statement, despite accepting the fact.

1) Badatz never gets involved with shmittah produce. Period. All Badatz-only consumers thereby stay away.
2) OU/OK are used for export purposes almost exclusively. Since OBD wine/fruit (except again for GHW and apparently GMW as well) cannot be exported thus no american kashrut stamp on the wine. A fact well pointed-out at by Dave when he opened a bottle of Barkan Assemblage Tzafit 2009 that has 5% of 2008 wine blended in afew months ago.
Best,
GG


1) I don't know of any Badatz Eidah Chareidis produce/products that deal with OBD, but they do deal with Teperberg, 2008 wines that are from grapes that I assume are from Arab territories (thus being Yivul Nokhri, being non-Jewish produce within the Land of Israel). However, while I'm pretty sure that the Belzer Badatz Machzikei Das *DOES* get involved with shmittah produce via OBD, I have only seen this on fresh-squeezed orange juice from the Pomeranz factory and have never seen a Belz hechsher on any wine for some reason. . .

2) GHW and GMW from shmittah vintages are exported not because they can halachically, but because it is not illegal to export them from the state of Israel nor to import them into other countries outside of Israel.

- E.Y.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby lewis.pasco » Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:29 pm

Craig, the argument that states "I buy (or produce) kosher wine made outside of Israel, so I don't give a darn about the economic issues of shmita production" facing kosher wineries within Israel is conveniently self-serving. You more than anyone responding on this thread know both winery and vineyard economics, and know that the issues facing Kosher producers within Israel are serious and significant.

Somehow I doubt the answer intended for shmita years was hey just buy and drink US made (or European made) kosher wine.

Yakov, I find several of your comments disturbing. I don't think the "misery deserves company" argument that you (probably inadvertently) proffer is a potent halachic argument.

What happens of course, is that kosher lemehadrin producers in Israel rely on non kosher keeping Israeli consumers to keep them solvent during shmita years.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Craig Winchell » Wed Sep 25, 2013 3:44 am

Lewis, the Israelis choose to live there, with all of the issues associated with it. I choose not to, and I don't need to worry about the issues. That's just being realistic. Shemitta year wine should not come over here. If it does, I'm not gonna buy it, whether OBD or HM or nothing. But I don't like the bellyaching by the Israelis either. Live there and accept the situation, or don't and don't. I will care if and when I move there, which I will do if and when I get a good winemaking position. Then maybe I'll piss and moan a bit too. But the option of drinking wine from chutz laAretz will be with me even then. If I can't trust it to be done properly, that will be my only choice.
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